Curved Sensors Could Really Shake Up the Faltering Camera Industry

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Let’s face it; after a good few years of Sony innovating in the camera space, things have suddenly come to a screeching halt. In the last two years, there have not been any real major improvements to modern Mirrorless cameras. Sure, sensors pack more megapixels, autofocus systems are a bit faster, and EVF technology and video technology have improved too. However, the updates to these systems have all been incremental. None of them really stand out as being innovative. Now, though, news has emerged about curved sensors going into mass production. What could this mean for the camera industry, and will we see them anytime soon? Let’s talk about this.

A recent post over on Mirrorless Rumors talks about some new and rather exciting curved sensors. The curved sensors, which are being made by a company called Curve-One, have some rather unique benefits over traditional flat sensors. Curve-One claims that their sensors will help reduce distortion and vignetting when shooting at wide angles. Edge sharpness in images is 5x greater when compared to regular sensors. Aberrations and chromatism are also supposedly improved. Lens construction can be simpler too. Curved-One also states that cameras and lenses will work faster all the way down to f1. Curved sensors can even gather more light. This all sounds pretty impressive.

We’ve Been Down the Curved Sensor Route Before

curved sensors

Not many know that Sony was playing around with curved sensors a few years ago. There was a lot of speculation about a possible Sony RX2 sporting a curved sensor and a 35mm f1.8 lens. There was also talk of a Ricoh, or Pentax branded GR-E. It would have sported a Full Frame 36MP curved sensor with a 28mm f2.4 lens. Still, as we know, neither of these cameras came to fruition. You might have noted that both of these cameras would have been fixed lens cameras and not ILC (Interchangeable Lens Cameras). The high price of these radically different cameras is honestly what doomed them. That, and the fact that curved sensors require specially designed lenses. With Sony and Ricoh/Pentax both heavily invested in their current lens strategies at the time, designing new lenses for a niche product was probably not viable.

Will We See Curved Sensors in Our Mirrorless Cameras Soon?

The new Curve-One curved sensor will work with one specific fisheye lens. The Curve-One website reveals that this combo will be better suited to drones, autonomous vehicles, scientific instruments, and VR applications. Still, they do list and show camera production. However, this development in sensor tech is still exciting. Curve One has obviously cracked the curved sensor code, and we’re sure that other sensor manufacturers are probably looking into this technology.

However, we wouldn’t suggest getting your hopes up too high for this tech to hit Mirroelsss cameras any time soon. For curved sensors to take off, the likes of Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and others will need to develop new lens mounts and a whole library of new lenses. Flat focal plane lenses like the ones we use now simply would not work. Developing lenses for these sensors would be easier as they would not have the more complicated optical designs current lenses have. Still, the amount of money it would take to switch over to producing these lenses initially would be staggering.

What Does the Future Hold?

The camera market isn’t the most stable right now, so chucking a huge amount of cash at curved sensor tech and new lenses makes no sense. Not to mention that there would be public outcry about moving to new lens mounts. Might we see a one-off fixed lens camera in the next couple of years that uses a curved sensor? Maybe. Camera manufacturers would need to test the water with new tech, and a fixed lens camera would be a good way to do it. Don’t worry about having to buy a new camera and lens collection just yet, though. Just sit back and see where the camera market goes with this. We have a feeling it will be quite a while before these innovative sensors become mainstream. Let us know what you think about curved sensors in the comment section below.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.